What is a Superiority Complex?

April S. Kenyon

A superiority complex is a psychological disorder in which the affected individual experiences an exaggerated feeling of self-importance. He or she feels superior to other people and displays a general disregard for the thoughts of others. Individuals with a superiority complex often exhibit a sense of grandiosity. They typically maintain a feeling that they are better or more important than other people, and often fail to take the opinions or desires of others seriously. This disorder may also be referred to as narcissism or megalomania.

Individuals with a superiority complex have an exaggerated feeling of self-importance.
Individuals with a superiority complex have an exaggerated feeling of self-importance.

Traits of someone with a superiority complex include haughtiness, a lack of empathy, and a tendency to brag. Individuals with a narcissistic personality often have a difficult time maintaining close relationships. They exhibit an intense reaction to anything that is perceived as an insult. Someone with a superiority complex flatters those who give him or her admiral acknowledgment, but despise anyone who does not display admiration. The individual often claims to be an expert in a number of areas and pretends to be more than he or she is.

Individuals with a superiority complex feel superior to everyone else.
Individuals with a superiority complex feel superior to everyone else.

A superiority complex is generally the result of an underlying inferiority complex. The individual likely feels inadequate or unimportant in some way and attempts to compensate for this with an illusory superiority and egotism. If there is no underlying inferiority complex, the individual may have received such praise and admiration as a child that feelings of superiority carried over into adulthood. Other possible causes of a superiority complex include emotional abuse, excessive criticism, and overindulgence from parents.

An individual with a superiority complex often has no regard for what others have to say.
An individual with a superiority complex often has no regard for what others have to say.

Individuals with superiority complexes will often interrupt people and generally have no regard for what others have to say. They tend to bring conversations around to themselves in a discussion, and frequently use the words “I,” “me,” and “my.” Those with a narcissistic personality believe that the rules do not apply to them and will often defy authority. People affected with this psychological condition will often use or manipulate others with no regard to their feelings.

Verbal abuse from parents may lead to the development of a superiority complex in their children.
Verbal abuse from parents may lead to the development of a superiority complex in their children.

It is important to distinguish between a superiority complex and a healthy sense of self-worth. Those who have a high confidence level in themselves may be inaccurately described as narcissistic or as having a sense of superiority. Those who simply have confidence in their abilities do not generally exhibit a complete disregard for others or a lack of empathy. While these individuals may claim to be an expert or highly skilled in certain areas, they are fully aware that they are not superior to others. Those with superiority complexes generally feel they are superior in all ways.

People with a superiority complex may not feel as though normal relationship rules apply to them.
People with a superiority complex may not feel as though normal relationship rules apply to them.
Someone with a superiority complex may have unreasonable expectations of others.
Someone with a superiority complex may have unreasonable expectations of others.

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Note that because the superiority complex person has decided to feel superior in every way in order to compensate for some areas of, let us call it sub-adequacy, they blame others for their failure. E.g. they call themselves the risk-takers and it's everyone else's fault via, say, taxes or via ethnicity such as non-white or non-Aryan that they are not no. 1 in the world or at least in their world.


A confident person does not need to tell others how good he/she is at something or how great he is. They are at peace with themselves and do not need to prove anything. When someone feels the need to prove how good they are at something they feel inadequate in other areas of their life and need validation.

You have to know how to deal with these people. They will throw out a comment to get a reaction. The key is to not respond now matter how unfair, outrageous, or just plain stupid what they said is. Once you respond, they win.

If they won't stop with the unfavorable behavior, give them a warning that you are leaving their presence; this could be hanging up the phone, leaving the room or leaving the premises if the behavior is continued. For example, I might say to my dad who likes to make racist comments, "Dad, if you continue to make racist statements, the conversation is over." He will continue, and I will politely hang up. But the next time, he won't do it. They hate this tactic because they are loosing their audience. They really want to be near you or talk to you so it is painful when they lose your attention.

You have to stick with it though. In the beginning they will just try harder. If you can hold out, it will work.


Pretty much my dad in a nutshell. He's always boasting about how great he is then passes it off as it being a "joke", but after the 3,000th time the joke isn't funny and it stops being a joke. He has no regard to how other people feel and will completely destroy your opinion or how you feel just to declare how right he is to everyone.

He will intentionally do things to annoy the crap out of someone (especially myself but other family members too) then get angry as soon as you contest him after he disregards you telling him to stop 5 or 6 times. He's constantly criticizing and his mood is pretty much ruined for the rest of the day whenever he loses at something or someone is better at something than he is. The only time he even makes an effort to do anything is when he's tortured someone enough to make them start crying, then he gets better for a couple weeks then goes right back to not caring. Not to mention when you do get mad and actually call him out for things, he tries to guilt trip you by "agreeing" and pretending to be upset at himself. The only person it hasn't worked on is me. Easily one of the worst people on this planet I've come into contact with.


This is so my sister in law! Goes on and on about how god doesn't exist constantly, most selfish person ever but is a 'vegan' (I say that loosely because she wears leather and silk). She has to preach her views constantly and if anyone disagrees we are the worst people in the world! Sits there with a smug look on her face, always gives everyone a talking down about not being vegan / an atheist. She grinds my gears completely. Rant over.


I know of someone who lies a lot about his past in order to inflate himself. His self-esteem is so low.

He tells people he was in the US Army and that he fought in Vietnam and was involved in top secret missions. He has a scar on his knee and tells people he was shot during combat. Total lies.

He purposely only hangs out with people with a lower IQ because they believe his war stories without question.


My guess is to avoid as much as possible to have any sort of relationship with people you don't respect or feel are not good enough, because human beings are not capable of having unequal relationships with one another. It's never accepted or understood to take somebody as a superior.


If Brad Pitt acts like he's better looking than everybody, is that a superiority complex? I get the feeling that people are pressured to feel and act like they are all equal and nobody really is equal to anyone else. I don't understand why people are not given credit to act based on their capabilities. If I am smart, and I see a few people who are not as smart as I am, but treat me like I'm not smarter than them, then I get mad. I will be inclined to prove that I am. there can never be a relationship with them in which we accept we have equal intelligence, ever.

Maybe some people are not given due credit and so get offended and act like they are superior. If they are given credit, there's no need for them to act that way in the first place. But to bully people into submission, which I think is what most people here are doing, is just not acceptable.


Could someone answer this (preferably someone with expertise in the field of psychiatry). So if a person has some skill or quality that is better than most people, is humility the only way to go about it? Can't the person take pride and act on it, that he is better?

My issue here is when I meet people who ignore this same thing, they act like they are special and I'm quick to draw everybody's focus to their shortcomings. I just don't understand how people think it should work or think that people really know the right thing here. People are not equal, yet a person is never given credit if he acts like he's got something better. Now I know people call such people as arrogant or having a superiority complex, but if someone is superior in any way, why is it that he has to act like he's no better than others?


I have an older sister who acts like a narcissistic snob, but she suffers from a superiority complex, having been poor early in life.

She feels her taste, her books, her belongings, her proper manners, her fashion, her color, is superior. I refrain from calling her as she is only interested in her own talking. --Sandy


I looked this up in trying to see if I was the narcissistic one. I met a guy online and we started a relationship after only two weeks of knowing each other. The pace was too fast for me. My fault for not listening to my guts. We talked every day for a month until we argued about race and politics. his beliefs revealed his apathy and disrespect for the struggles of "black" people in the U.S. He got offended when I got offended at his insensitive statements and couldn't see or understand why I was taking things personally.

I was being idealized with statements like "you are my dream girl" "you make me happy" and "you are all I need." That's too much responsibility put on me. I broke it off after realizing his oppressive and misogynistic spirit.

So I came here to see if I can recognize these things in myself and change them.


Two people I used to work with have this complex. Both use the superiority to mask their true inferiority. They are fine as long as everyone around them lies to them on a regular bases by inflating their egos. It's the only way to deal with them. You don't want to deal with their narcissistic injury or rage, trust me.

The truth is so painful to these people that they cannot even accept reality, so they begin to believe the lies of their superior abilities. They are very fragile people. To make matters worse, nobody likes a narcissist, so the cycle repeats itself.


I have an older sister with a superiority complex. I finally recognized this in her after years of her interference in my life that became increasingly more disrespectful and just made me feel bad.

I regarded her as my big sister looking out for her little sister, then as a control freak and now as someone with a god complex with a lot of hubris. These are descriptive terms that I used in my mind before I ever looked up any definitions on the internet.


I imagine it would be difficult for a narcissist to seek superiority complex treatment. After all, wouldn't they be inclined to resist admitting that they have a problem?

How could you suggest that a person with a superiority complex needs treatment? There has to be a way to approach them without offending them, but I cannot fathom what that would be. Their whole foundation rests upon believing that they are perfect, and for someone to suggest otherwise would bring forth rage.


I think it's unfortunate that many people mistake self-confidence for having a superiority complex. If more people were confident in their abilities, then we wouldn't have inferiority complexes and self-esteem issues!

My cousin is a great violinist, and she knows it. There is no shame in that. However, whenever our family gets together over the holidays, they poke fun at her about her confidence in her musical talent.

I think that they should be ashamed! I also believe that they are jealous, because they have no musical talent.


@feasting – If you look up the superiority complex definition in a dictionary, it should have a picture of my brother's wife beside it. She is narcissistic to the core!

I don't know why he married her. For some reason, he fell in love with her and felt he could not live without her. She is really pretty, but looks can only go so far.

He has become her personal assistant and support system. If he doesn't compliment her often, she fishes for compliments. He can't do anything that doesn't benefit her, or she will say, “What about me?”


I have a friend who displays all of these superiority complex symptoms! She is really difficult to be around, but I am one of the few people who will put up with her, so I feel a responsibility to remain friends with her.

If I need someone to listen to me, she is not the person I call. It's hard to be around her on days when I am sad, because she will offer no support whatsoever. She will barely even notice that anything is out of the ordinary.

I can't imagine anyone marrying someone like her. Catering to her needs would be a full-time job, and it would place a strain on any relationship.

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